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Could we change the [preservation] world with kindness?

February 2, 2011

One of my weekly rituals is to spend Sunday mornings with a hot cup of coffee and “CBS Sunday Morning.” This week correspondent Steve Hartman looked at the value of writing thank you notes.  A slacker himself, he found others who still believe the practice has great value.

Lawyer John Kralik wrote a thank you note a day for a year and recently published a book about the experience.  He wrote one to his child’s piano teacher and to his  barista for making an effort to remember his name.  In turn, the barista was clearly pleased that someone recognized her effort.

“When you appreciate something, it comes again,” said Kralik.  “If I was thankful for clients paying their bills, they seemed to pay faster. If I was thankful for cases, they seemed to come more.”

Don’t we all feel better when someone notices we’re making the effort?  Don’t we all go through life craving recognition for who we are and what we do?

I confess that I used to be much better about thank you notes than I have been since my fingers went digital.   I email, tweet, and blog and at night think, “oh, I should have written a note to…but where’s my address book these days and do I have any nice stationery any more?”

Maybe we should all make an effort to write more notes.

Preservationists are often in the position of asking for things — don’t knock down that building, please redesign that building to be more neighborly in the historic district, please don’t put that big box/drugstore/parking lot/skyscraper on that spot.  But when we achieve what we’ve asked for, do we send thank you notes?

Walmart, a notorious foe of the preservation movement, who has only lost once (to the residents of Chestertown, MD, who successfully defeated Walmart’s efforts to build in the county), recently retracted plans to build adjacent to the boundaries of the Civil War Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County, Virginia.  There was a collective sigh of relief from Civil War historians, preservationists and some local residents (I’m assuming there is a faction that want access to discount televisions and Cheetos and for whom the location doesn’t really matter).  Yet how many of those celebrating will take a moment to thank the giant corporation for doing the right thing — and in so doing, perhaps encourage them to think more carefully next time they plan?

Let’s make an effort to be encouraging and to thank others (be they corporations, developers, government, demolition-focused property owners) when they are willing to compromise and look at the long-term effects of their actions.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2011 10:08 am

    I agree. I absolutely love writing and receiving letters and having an excuse to covet and share stationery. People love thank you notes, but why should we stop with just gift thank yous? When I lived in the south, I was told that it’s customary to send a thank you note for having dinner at someone’s house. Showing that you recognized the consideration and collaboration goes a long way (another thing I’ve learned on the job) especially when different points of view meet. Great post!

    I, too, love CBS Sunday mornings and coffee. Cute picture, by the way

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      February 2, 2011 11:38 am

      We should pitch CBS Sunday Morning on more preservation stories…. Hmmm. I have a few in mind.

  2. Luke permalink
    February 7, 2011 11:04 am

    The Civil War Trust has a form letter to thank Wal-Mart for reconsidering the location of the proposed store at the Wilderness Battlefield. It can be found here:

    • Sabra Smith permalink*
      February 7, 2011 11:27 am

      Luke: Thanks so much for the link to a pre-drafted letter. I think so often people are stymied by “the right words” to express what they want to say, and this is a big help for those folks! (Now I have visions of people copying the form letter over onto their Mrs. John L. Strong watermarked stationery….)


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